I’ve been following Media Molecule’s Dreams with cautious optimism for three years now, not because I doubt the LittleBigPlanet developers’ ability to make a robust, accessible creation platform, but because I was worried the team wouldn’t realize the full potential of the app on PSVR. Creative platforms like Tilt Brush, Medium and Tvori make for some of the most compelling VR experiences on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and PSVR has been missing out on them for two years now.
But Dreams’ possibilities go far beyond these virtual art studios.
Now, my caution hasn’t yet been remedied, but recent signs suggest things are looking up. Media Molecule has understandably had to dance around the subject of VR in interviews and previews while the Sony marketing machine gets its messaging in order, but there are vital signs of life. For starters, an interview last month suggested that Dreams’ VR support will allow players to create within their headsets and even play certain experiences inside PSVR. We might not be able to play all of the games’ user-created levels in VR, for example, but it sounds like it’s possible for users to make content specifically tailored for VR.
Then, earlier this week, a report surfaced claiming that Dreams’ VR support will now be included from the game’s the as-of-yet-undetermined release date and not patched in later as previously expected. We have to take that report with a pinch of salt, of course, but if true it suggests that Media Molecule is fully aware of just how important Dreams could be to VR.
In the past year we’ve seen many of VR’s existing art apps expand to include not just static 3D paintings but also introduce intuitive new ways to make animations and even create new worlds and objects for videogames. Oculus’ Quill now lets users make keyframe animations with a fairly simple interface, for example, and some developers have even managed to make entire VR games out of assets created inside Tilt Brush. Unity, too, hopes to streamline content creation and turn more people into developers with experimental apps like Editor VR and Carte Blanche.
Make no mistake about it; these are the first steps in a revolution for 3D content creation, but they still require users to have a basic knowledge of development engines in order to incorporate VR-made assets. Editing in Unity inside VR looks incredible, but it still requires a decent understanding of the platform’s UI to get started, as does importing easily-made Google Blocks assets into your pipeline. Carte Blanche’s content packs, meanwhile, will have you making VR levels in seconds, but could also limit exactly what people can make in VR.
Dreams, however, could leapfrog all of these solutions.
If, come release, Dreams presents an accessible means of not only making 3D worlds and objects in VR but also designing interactive experiences within them, it could be the most important PSVR game thus far. What we’ve seen so far from the game on standard displays seems promising; an intuitive UI navigated using PlayStation Move or DualShock 4’s motion controls allows players to sculpt 3D content and characters and then implement them into levels in seconds. At last year’s PSX (as seen in the video below) we saw one player create a simple third-person platformer over the course of a few minutes, jumping back and forth between making a walkway and then navigating it with ridiculous ease.
Imagine an ecosystem in which players can bring their ideas and, for lack of a better term, dreams to life and then share them with you not just on a standard screen but with the immediacy of VR. Imagine making the epic battle sequence or explorable paradise you’ve always wanted to visit. Imagine being able to craft the stories and characters you’ve always wanted to see and then making them not with expensive cameras and a handful of amateur actors but with tools that give you complete control over delivery.
Dreams’ potential to kickstart accessible content creation makes it, for my money, one of the most exciting VR experiences on the horizon right now. Empowering players of any knowledge level to create interactive content of their own design is a future many of us want to see, and Dreams seems closer than anyone else to realising that. Media Molecule’s own Alex Evans put it best the aforementioned interview. “As soon as [VR support] is out, you’ll be able to make a VR experience and push the medium forward,” he said. That’s an exciting thought indeed.
Ultimately, Dreams’ VR support might be a stepping stone to something bigger; you almost certainly won’t be able to sell your creations to others or bring them to rival VR headsets, and we’re bound to find some limitations to content creation as we dig in. In a way, it’s quite similar to how Skyrim VR’s mods allow you to create the experience you want, but within the limits of its own world. But in carrying the torch for truly accessible game-making further than anyone else has yet done, Media Molecule may be developing one of the most important VR experiences yet made. That’s what my dreams are made of, anyway.